SYLACAUGA – The City Council delayed one airport-related action and rejected another at its meeting Wednesday morning.
Councilman Shannon Darby moved, and the council approved, to remove an agenda item to adopt an ordinance that would make the Airport Board an authority, giving it significantly more control over dealings at the Municipal Airport. The board is currently an advisory board, meaning it makes recommendations to the council but has little power on its own.
Councilman Joe Hogan, who seconded the motion to remove the item, said the council was not ready to vote on the proposed ordinance, which has already been through five revisions.
“The proposal needs more work,” Hogan said. “Shannon and I didn’t get the latest copy until Monday, so we needed a little more time. There are too many questions in there for us to be able to vote on it yet, and these things need to be addressed and reviewed by our city attorney as well.”
The council discussed the four-page proposal, prepared by Airport Board chairman Tommy Dobson, at its work session Monday night.
Councilman Billy Carden said he was not in favor of a section that would allow the Airport Authority to pre-qualify board candidates before the council interviewed them, and Council President Rocky Lucas expressed concern over an item that would require an annual meeting to discuss the Airport Authority’s appropriation. Lucas said it seemed like the city would be guaranteeing the authority an appropriation.
“It would be my preference if none of this was actually in there, and it was just in accordance with state code,” Lucas said. “I think all of these things could be cut out. What this should say is, ‘Pursuant to the Code of Alabama, the City of Sylacauga is making the Airport Board an Airport Authority.’ End of story.”
Lucas said state code would hold up against challenges that may occur down the line better than a local ordinance.
Hogan said the Airport Board approached the city about becoming an incorporated authority because of Federal Aviation Authority funding issues that occurred as a result of the city removing land owned by the Industrial Development Board from the airport’s future growth plan. The proposed ordinance states it is “essential to the public welfare” that the board be made an authority to secure more funding.
The council will likely continue discussion of this issue at its July 14 work session.
Also at Wednesday’s meeting, the council voted 2-3 to reject an item to discontinue grass-cutting services of the same IDB-owned property that was removed from the airport’s layout plan after it was discovered the land is not owned by the city.
Darby and Hogan voted in favor of the action, while Lucas, Carden and Councilman Tom Roberts voted against.
Hogan proposed discontinuing grass-cutting for that roughly 40 acres of property because of liability concerns. Upkeep of that property costs the city roughly $8,000 a year, councilmen said.
“If a city employee gets hurt cutting that property, they’re not going to come to the IDB, they’re going to come to the city,” he said. “Second, if it’s (the IDB’s) property, which they have claimed and stuck their flag in so many times, then they can cut their own grass. It’s that simple.”
Other councilmen said they wanted to continue to cut the grass because it borders a speculative industrial building that the city has a significant investment in, and upkeep of the land may improve its chance of selling.
At Monday’s work session, Lucas asked if this action even needed a formal vote or if the council could give the mayor a directive to either continue or stop the grass-cutting. City Clerk Patricia Carden said the council had taken similar actions in the past, “but if somebody wanted to say you violated the Open Meetings Law, you probably have just by giving a directive.”
In other business at the meeting, the council:
• Authorized the mayor to apply for a $250,000 Community Development Block Grant for the demolition of the former East Highland School. The grant would require a local match of $222,500 to complete demolition.
• Approved a resolution granting the Sylacauga Healthcare Authority to enter into a certificate of reincorporation to obtain HUD financing.
• Approved five proposals for work related to the ongoing City Hall improvement project.
• Approved the purchase of one roll-up door and repair of another door at the city Maintenance Shop totaling $5,900.
The next regular council meeting is July 15 at 6 p.m. at City Hall.